In Nebraska they are shooting windmills. Picture this…a bright red Ford f-350, 10mpg, cruising at a brisk 60 miles per hour. A long, very long, straight highway stretching to the horizon. A stiff breeze at 20 knots out of the southwest. Something unusual in the distance – a hill, a mere 4 foot high rise in the road, and up over it comes the truck barreling down the asphalt with two homegrown locals, pigeon-eyed in the front seat. The passenger side window slowly rolls down, the long barrel of a .308 caliber deer rifle pokes out into the air, the gas pedal is pushed to the floor.
On the horizon looms the lightly silhouetted shape of an enormous 410 foot tall, white gentle giant, easily turning in the current of wind.
In the guzzling truck the passenger cocks his rifle, reaches down between his legs to grab another sip of Bud Light then centers the beast in his sight. Now closing in at 85 miles per hour the driver positions the truck adjacent to the twirlingly tall pest. The giant picks up speed, twirling ever faster as the breeze picks up.
Then, when the time is finally right…..
the driver hits the brakes, turns off the road, pulls up right next to the wind turbine. The keys come out of the ignition, the men jump out of the truck, take another sip of Bud and throw their cans to the ground. The licensed gun owner proudly aims his rifle high into the sky and fires away. POP, CHK CHK, POP, etc….. etc….. etc….
Now there are holes in another windmill in western Nebraska. And in fact this is not an unusual event. Back in the 1920’s the majority of rural communities in the Midwest and beyond were powered by windmills. As more and more people migrated West large energy producers saw the opportunity and various coal powered plants were erected. One day, someone got the bright idea that shooting up the wind farm would force the locals to buy all of their energy from the newly built coal power plant. And well, they have been shootin’ holes in them ever since, except now they have no reason – it’s just plain ‘ol country fun!
A month ago I had the exact opposite idea to shooting up a windmill, instead I thought I should try and build one. After all I don’t drink Bud Light, so why not!?!?
The setup is simple, the plans that you can find online are 90% complete (here and here), and the parts can be mostly taken from your local salvage yard. In fact I would say that about 90% of the materials used in my wind turbine are repurposed recycled materials. For example – my generator is an old treadmill motor. My support beam is actually a skateboard grinding pole. The tail is a piece of scrap sheet metal found in my garage from a previous tenant. I shaped the blades myself from a recycled piece of pine wood. The batteries will be coming from old golf carts from my local golf course. You get the idea. This thing is a Frankenstein, but that’s the beauty – most everything was dirt cheap and readily available. I do have to admit that it will take a while to find all of the parts, I am still working on getting the tower components so I can erect this beast next week. But seriously people, if I can do this – I can guarantee your aunt – godmother – and siamese twin sisters should have a good shot at it as well. So close your ears and open your eyes, here is a way to put your hands to work to build an efficient, affordable and simple wind turbine system that could theoretically power your house* (*if you erect a few of them together).
The directions stated that you should build the blades out of a large 10 inch diameter PVC pipe meant for drainage. After cutting through this thing with a hacksaw and a bit of Raw Red Headed Power, I realized I was left with a pile of micro-plastic on the floor of my workshop. Normally I wouldn’t think anything of it, but I recently had a serious conversation about the aforementioned with Miss Slice of Feist. I will sum it all up in the next sentence: Micro-plastics are microscopic particles of plastic from everything ever made from plastic, circa 1856, that is now starting to saturate our oceans, soils, streams and get into the world’s food chain. It may not be in the news now, and we may seem like conspiracy theorists, but if you don’t believe me – I always know that Wikipedia will back my ass up. In the end I chose to carve my blades from wood by hand using a draw knife, then sand out the curves to create a cambered wing shape.
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So I leave you with this, we are at the forefront of an energy crisis. Most of us will be counting on our politicians to make the right decisions…but why not take matters into our own hands and take the initiative to solve a few problems in a grass-roots way. Building a wind turbine might not solve our need for petroleum, but hey – maybe you will be able to hook a few up together to charge your electric vehicle battery…. just do me a favor and guard that gentle giant with a shotgun.
21 thoughts on “We Got a Lot of Wind”
Awesome post, Evan.
I’ve loved wind power and giant wind turbines since I was a kid.
Had no idea that the humans with pick up trucks and gun racks liked to shoot them. Doesn’t surprise me. Sigh.
The kid inside me thinks it would be fun to have laser mounted 22 caliber rifles on the windmills that would automatically target and shoot the tires of people who do this.
Anyway, great post…I’d love to make my own turbine someday.
@Forest – Thanks Man! If you can keep it out of sight of your local roadways, you might be better off – or at least with some distance they wont be able to shoot the thing down. But seriously – once you source the parts it might be two weekends of work, then you have some clean energy coming your way.
I too love the make and repurpose things, however the things I make are never photographed as beautifully as these things! Great pictures!
@Alicia – I would absolutely love to see what you are up to!
Super neat idea. My husband and I live on aruba, where they get a good percentage of there energy from wind turbines. We might just look into building our own. Thanks!
@Sara – Awesome – just remember that this is more of a starter turbine to get you familiar with how the entire system works. Once you get through it, like me, you will probably understand how to build a bigger one or one that is more efficient. Good Luck!
Geez do people seriously SHOOT at wind turbines???? My husband is a Wind Technician! Don’t they realize there are actual people working on them, walking around them, up inside them as they’re being fixed?! That scares me to think there are redneck psychos out there shootin’ at turbines that hardworking people are building and fixing each day. And what’s better for the earth is better for us all.
A friend of mine started to build me a turbine using Sitka lumber (sp) because of health issues the project is half finished and I don’t know what to do with it. everybody tells me it won’t work and all I did was waste money…any thoughts?
Hi Jan – I don’t think it is necessarily a waste of time. Usually when I come across a difficult challenge in my work – if I keep pressing on, trying new solutions, eventually I succeed – even if it is in a way that was different than my expected outcome. I say – push forward and finish the project, at the very least you will learn a lot from it!
Your obvious extreme left bunny hugger mentality completely turned me off. You might want to rethink your purpose here.
Or, do you rally think that slandering rural community folk is a good way to secure the support of those that wish to relocate to and enjoy a rural lifestyle?
I for one could never trust your opinion on any issue. Sorry
Hey Dennis, actually a weird fact – I did raise rabbits as a young kid, then turned it into a business selling them around Easter. But honestly – I did not mean to offend, the intro is merely a semi-fictional short story that is in fact based in a lot of truth. Here’s another writer that describes multiple wind farm shooting events in more detail, and you’re gonna like this – his site is aptly named ‘TreeHugger.com ! Here’s the article
Dennis, I could not agree more. I live in the rural south and want to build a wind generator on my property. But it was very difficult to read this article past the 1st few sentences. I met a guy here the other day in line at the store, (that’s what us crazy folk in rural ‘MERICA do we talk with strangers) he said he worked on diesel generators. I asked if worked in the oil fields, he said no he worked at the windmill farm. When there’s no wind he has to fire up the DIESEL generators to spin the windmills to make power… yeah made me scratch my head to. Still thank you for the tips on the materials you used to make your wind generator. I’ll drive my red 4×4 pick’m up to the junk yard to find those pieces real soon for my windmill project.
Thanks Mr. Lentz for a well-written and informative article. I live in Oklahoma where “the wind comes sweeping down the plain” every day… morning, noon, and night. These folks are just beginning to think about wind turbines as a viable source of clean energy. How in the world did they overlook the value of the wind? They knew about it back in the old days; the Oklahoma landscape is littered with old wooden windmills that were once used to pump water for cowboys and cattle. I’m a fellow tree hugger, both pro-wind and pro-solar, and so is my husband who just happens to be Native American. His tribal counterparts are angry that a wind farm is being erected in our area. Of course, they’re making a fortune on oil rights, and weren’t granted “wind rights” by the federal government. Without a doubt, there will be turbine target practice here in our neck of the woods just as you described.
I read your article because of my interest in the topic… Your line, “The licensed gun owner” made it clear you had, a not so subtle agenda, far beyond the stated topic… In most states, one does not need a license to own a rifle! You were intentionally disparaging all who take the second amendment seriously and live in the real world where it is not only wise to be prepared for a failure of the electric grid but to be prepared should someone threaten ones life or family… You are a typical leftist attempting to mischracterize those you see as evil in your mirage utopian ideology…
Hi Randy – thanks for the comment. For the record I have absolutely nothing against gun ownership or second amendment rights. The story at the beginning of this post is merely a fictional account based on many many actual events, meant to gain interest in the story. Ultimately my goal is to get people talking about alternative power and only taking what they need from a land.There have actually been a lot of current incidents of people shooting windmills if you check out a quick google search: https://www.google.com/search?q=shooting+windmills&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 though my article was actually based on historical data of locals shooting windmills to favor the bigger power companies spreading West.
Good info on the windmills. The rest is garbage!
Everyone in rural America drinks and drives, shoots at whatever we feel like and then we litter? You clearly know an enormous amount about wind generated power. But you have no clue about people. The world will never advance as long as people with your concept of how rural Americans really conduct themselves.
Hi Kirk – thanks for the comment. For the record I have absolutely nothing against rural America, in fact I love it. Obviously there are only a handful of people in any community that tend toward poor public behavior and you can’t judge an entire town based on those few. The story at the beginning of this post is merely a fictional account based on many many actual events, meant to gain interest in the story. Ultimately my goal is to get people talking about alternative power and only taking what they need from a land.There have actually been a lot of current incidents of people shooting windmills if you check out a quick google search: https://www.google.com/search?q=shooting+windmills&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8 though my article was actually based on historical data of locals shooting windmills to favor the bigger power companies spreading West.
Mr.Lentz you don’t “caulk” a rifle. IDK if this was accident or ignorance.
Thanks for the tip Joe, though the real focus of the story is not on the minute details but the overall history of the formation of our country’s power grid. It’s an anecdotal story based on actual factual occurrences. Thanks for reading and I hope you can see the real importance of the information embedded within.
You just had to put something negative about guns in a supposedly electrical topic. I suggest you focus your story on your subject.
Hi Robert – thanks for the comment, actually the story is based on actual events that happened back in the early 1900’s. If you look into the link I provided in the post as well as historical documents, history shows that small rural towns in the plains actually had influential people come in from the oil or coal industries and they paid locals to go out and shoot up the emerging wind farms. It’s no joke. The story I wrote on here is meant more to create a visual, not commenting on gun owners themselves, but rather the actions that took place back in time that essentially destroyed the potential for the West to be powered by alternative energies.